Impact of the coronavirus pandemic on economic migration and labour mobility. The position of the trade unions

A seminar about the “Impact of the coronavirus pandemic on economic migration and labour mobility. The position of the trade unions” has been organised by IFES (Institutul de Formare Economică şi Socială) in cooperation with EZA and with the support of the European Union and took place from 9 to 12 September 2021 in Sibiu / Romania at the end of a calm period of the Coronavirus 19 pandemic. The situation in Sibiu was well for organizing such an event. However, from the technical point of view, the possibility to participate in the seminar also from distance (on-line) was also provided. Thus, a hybrid seminar was organized, mainly with physical participation (only 4 on-line participants). In place, were ensured the conditions of medical safety (wearing the mask in all indoor spaces, disinfectant, rapid tests Covid for those asking). For the participants traveling from countries with restrictions when arriving in Romania, pre-trip test costs have been reimbursed.

Representatives of workers’ organisations from Albania, Belgium, Bulgaria, Estonia, France, Germany, Lithuania, Moldavia (as guests), Poland, Portugal, Serbia and Romania participated in the seminar.

The idea of the seminar topic came a year ago when, during the first lockdown in all over the Europe, many thousands workers travel from a country to another in order to do seasonal tasks in agriculture and elderly care system. 

A closer look at the realities of the European Union (and not only) shows the special importance that economic migration and professional mobility have for almost every national economies. The question that arises is about respecting the rights of these people to decent work, to defending against abuse and discrimination. 

The seminar aimed to analyse the current situation of migration and professional mobility whithin the European Union and, in regard, to have a look on the role of trade unions in this matter. The seminar was attended by representatives of workers' organisations at local, national and European level. The seminar took the advantage of the contribution with up-to-date information and expertise coming from 12 European countries (European Union, candidates and neighbouring).

The seminar started with brief reports from participants on “The impact of the Covid 19 crisis on the labour market and on professional mobility. The up-to-date situation”. The  vaccination rates is vary from a country to another, but the 4th wave is already in place or is about to come.

During the sessions of the seminar have been discussed the following themes:

  • Migration and mobility after the 2020 pandemic: The end of an age? (Silviu Ispas – IFES (RO) rising some questions about the followings of this pandemic period and the migration and mobility)
  • Analysis of the legal framework on intra - EU labour mobility 

(Magda Sotropa – Moves (EU) – an competent overlook of the regulations in force at the moment)

  • Demographic and professional imbalance on the labour market.

Reports from France – Radu Creanga (CFTC), Lithuania – Jovita Pretzsch, Germany – Helga Jungheim (Ver.di), Romania – Manuela Rascarache (Employment Agency Sibiu) and Larisa Papp (Labour Inspection)

The practical aspects of economic migration and professional mobility were in the participants' attention through topics like:

  • Abuses and illegalities in connection with migrant employees and in the case of professional mobility (panel with participants and local contributions, moderated by Sergiu Cocos (MD).
  • The future of migration and professional mobility in the post-pandemic era (panel with participants contributions, moderated by Lucien Millou (FR)).
  • “Migrant work in Europe” (presentation done in the first seminar day by dr. Christina Herrmann - NBH (DE) about an Erasmus+ project being implemented in Germany, Portugal, Estonia, Lithuania, Bulgaria and Romania)
  • “Fair mobility” project (an interesting successful project carried out by the German trade union DGB)
  • Directive on Workers’ Posting. From the legal framework provisions to implementation (introduction made by Cecilia Gostin – Cartel Alfa (RO)
  • Professional mobility in the European Union in 2020 (introduction made by Veselin Mitov – CL Podkrepa (BG))

Another very interesting moment of the seminar was the introduction made by the Executive director of the European Labour Authority under the key sentence: Labour mobility and social security under properly and efficiently EU rules enforced. Mr. Cosmin Boiangiu also made a detailed presentation of this new European Union institution. Based on Bratislava form the beginning of this year, ELA already started to be present in places and cases where the EU rules related to work are not respected.

During the seminar and during breaks between sessions, participants become aware about the similarities identified the various represented countries, but also about the differences making the specificity from a country to another (good or bad example).

At the end of each discussion have drawn conclusions relevant to the future work of workers’ organizations. Very interesting summarize of the past seminar day did in the beginning of the second and third seminar days by Jovita Pretzsch (Solidarumas – LT) and Jochen Mettlen (CSC – BE).

In the final session (Proposals for a coherent system of regulations and tools capable of preventing abuses and illegalities and providing migrant or mobile workers with a decent working and living environment and within the limits of law. Legal framework and way of action), the participants identified several conclusion and ideas for future actions: 

  • Trade unions are firstly concerned to protect the workplaces.  For this they are cooperating with the authorities in concern the legality of the work. For them it is difficult to identify and help the new coming emigrants,
  • The good example of projects like Faire Mobilität should be learned and disseminated. It is very important for the migrants to be assisted in their own language and to be defended when abuses and discrimination occur,
  • A more intensive cooperation between the trade union it’s a must,
  • Also a must is the involvement of the authorities at all levels. Great expectations are here in regard the new settled European Labour Authority.

As key speakers of the seminar must be noted Mr. Cosmin BOIANGIU (Executive director of the European Labour Authority), Mrs. Magda SOTROPA (Expert within Network of legal experts MoveS – EU), Mr. SZASZ Attila (Expert at Faire Mobilität - DGB – DE], Mrs. Larisa PAPP (Director at National Labor Inspection Romania).